Pete: The Story of Peter V. Cacchione, New York's First Communist Councilman

By Simon W. Gerson | Go to book overview

among the 600 canvassers, the ten consultants and two count directors, maybe even a Communist would be elected!

Pete and six of his representatives walked in before 9 A.M. Wearing their large celluloid identification badges, they carefully examined the roped-off drill floor, the huge tables at which the canvassers were to work and the many bins in which the 802,792 paper ballots were to be lodged during the successive counts. A large illuminated blackboard, dominating one end of the floor, would show the candidates' standing after each count.

After preliminary instructions from the count directors, the canvassers took their places at the tables. The canvassers, all Democrats or Republicans, had qualified by passing a noncompetitive examination conducted by the Municipal Civil Service Commission. Pete made the rounds, greeting old acquaintances among the major party politicians and introducing himself to the canvassers, count officials, reporters and even the police who were on twenty-four hour guard. Most of the canvassers warmed up to the broadly smiling Pete; some viewed him as a likely victor. Pete and his associates made it clear that they expected a fair count. In any event they would be on hand, trying to watch every step of the process; in fact, they haunted the armory for the next three weeks.

The first-choice count began slowly but soon speeded up as canvassers became more expert in handling the long ballots. After two days of steadily mounting tension the first-choice ballots were announced. Pete, with 30,237 first-choice votes, was in fifth place, just behind two Democrats and two Laborites. With a total of nine to be elected from Brooklyn, things looked good, but by no means sure, as Pete continually told his campaign workers, a reminder that was to prove prophetic.

Pete's first-choice total made news, not least of all in the borough's leading newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle, which had been hostile to PR from the beginning. Nor was the total Communist first-choice vote overlooked ( Israel Amter of Manhattan, 18,325; Isidore Begun in the Bronx, 20,946; and Paul Crosbie in Queens, 4,609). More than 74,000 New York voters in four boroughs had given their first-choice votes to Communists, but it was Brooklyn where the breakthrough was possible and it was on shabby Marcy Avenue that main attention focused.

On the thirtieth count, about midway in the tally, Pete had slipped a bit. He was in sixth place but still well up with the leaders, ahead of three machine Democrats, all the Republicans in the race, one Laborite and a City Fusion candidate. What happened between that count and the

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Pete: The Story of Peter V. Cacchione, New York's First Communist Councilman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 2
  • Pete Made a Little History 5
  • Contents 7
  • 1 - The Argument 17
  • 2 - Boyhood in Sayre, Pa. 21
  • 3 - To New York -- via Las Vegas 24
  • 4 - Pete Gets Involved 26
  • 5 - Pete Leads a Bonus March Contingent 30
  • 6 - Brooklyn Captures Pete 34
  • 7 - Tammany Handles Relief 36
  • 8 - Seabury and Chile Acuna 39
  • 9 - Tin Boxes and Red Herrings 43
  • 10 - Class Struggle and Goo-Goos 47
  • 11 - The Fiorello Phenomenon 50
  • 12 - The Labor Party is Born 56
  • 13 - Pete and PR 61
  • 14 - Pete's First Try 67
  • 15 - The '37 Mayoralty Campaign 73
  • 16 - Election Day, 1937 79
  • 17 - The '37 Count 82
  • 18 - Towards the '39 Campaign 86
  • 19 - Marcantonio: A Man to Study 90
  • 20 - War Clouds and a Write-in Vote 99
  • 21 - From Phoney War to Anti-Fascist War 103
  • 22 - Victory in '41 112
  • 23 - Why Pete Won: Reflections 113
  • 24 - The Eagle Screams 116
  • 25 - Pete's First Council Session 120
  • 26 - Fighting Fascism and Anti-Semitism 124
  • 27 - Battling Baseball's Jim Crow 129
  • 28 - On Pete's Style of Work 132
  • 29 - Prophetic Resolutions 136
  • 30 - Defender of Italian-Americans 139
  • 31 - Widening Support 142
  • 32 - Manhattan Names Ben Davis 148
  • 33 - Tackling The Eagle and O'Dwyer 151
  • 34 - Pete Tops the List 153
  • 35 - Brooklyn to the Rescue 156
  • 36 - The Team of Two 161
  • 37 - Pete Wins a Third Term 163
  • 38 - Cold War Years 166
  • 39 - Stuyvesant Town: A Close Question 169
  • 40 the Going Gets Rougher 173
  • 41 - The Cardinal and the Council 177
  • 42 - The Year of the Long Knives 182
  • 43 - PR: Cold War Casualty 187
  • 44 - A Day of Civic Mourning 192
  • 45 - The Succession Fight 196
  • 46 - Running for Pete's Seat 203
  • 47 - An Afterword 204
  • Index 211
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